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Exploring Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)

In collaboration with Stable Routes CIC and Rangers Riding Ranch.

As equestrians, we all know how beneficial spending time with our horses is for our mental health, particularly when living in such uncertain times in a chaotic world. Ironically, while horse keeping can be stressful at times, it is worth it for the chance to snatch those fleeting moments in the day where you can solely focus on your horse and the chaos is silenced.

Many riders and owners have specific goals in mind that they wish to achieve or aim to develop a particular skill set. Apart from these more obvious variety of horsemanship skills, horses can allow humans to develop a plethora of life skills in much more subtle ways which we often take for granted. EAL centres are slowly appearing throughout the UK due to the benefits the intervention has for vulnerable children and adults. Ranger's Riding Ranch (The Equestrian Business Awards’ charity partner) and Stable Routes CIC are two organisations who provide EAL. The Awards’ Founder, Katy Wright spoke to Dean Brockway of Rangers Riding Ranch and Isobel Manning of Stable Routes CIC to find out more.

Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)

Isobel Mannings of Stable Routes CIC tells us more about EAL

“Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is learning through equine assisted activities. It is a positive learning experience where the horse is an active participant. No prior horse riding or animal management experience is needed. EAL uses horses to provide immediate feedback to people’s behaviours. Horses provide a quick, honest response to actions and behaviours, allowing the person to have a deeper understanding how their behaviour affects others. Through activities like leading, riding, grooming, learners can see how their actions affect the horses. Learners begin to read the horses’ body language and become in tune with their feelings. For people with social, emotional and mental health needs, this is a huge positive learning experience in a calm, quiet environment, away from the distractions and stresses of classroom and home life.

EAL also provides lots of opportunities to develop self esteem and confidence. Learning to handle and work alongside a huge animal is a massive confidence booster for some of our learners.”

Photo Courtesy of Stable Routes CIC


As it is non-classroom based, EAL is ideal for children with Special Education Needs (SEN) who experience barriers to learning in a traditional school environment. If a child or young person has an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP), EAL can be used to meet planned outcomes as outlined within it. Areas that EAL can support vulnerable adults and children with are:

- Mental health disorders

- Develop fine and gross motor skills as well as coordination

- Management and leadership skills

- Communication and social skills

- Emotional literacy and regulation

- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation

The Equestrian Business Awards Charity Partner, Rangers Riding Ranch was recently set up by Dean Brockway and Polly Lambden with the aim of not only supporting children with Special Education Needs, but also military veterans and active service personnel with visible or invisible injuries as well as current and surviving cancer patients. They are currently based in Hertfordshire but are looking to relocate to Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire. Katy Wright caught up with Dean Brockway to find out more:

What was your inspiration behind Ranger's Riding Ranch? How did you about setting it up and what journey have you been on with it?

The inspiration behind Rangers Riding Ranch came 4 years ago. Dean was already running the charity Education for Everyone and a chance meeting with a 17 year old young lady (Polly) got the ball rolling. Polly had two horses of her own (Legend an ex-racehorse and Cracker) and saw the positive effects they had or her autistic nieces and nephews.

We decided it would be worth exploring the possibility of the charity setting up a project to develop this further. Five months later we started with Polly’s two horses in a field with no electricity or running water. Two months later we purchased a third horse (Sparkle). As winter set in we realised we really need to find somewhere with stables and luckily three stables came up on a shared yard in Hertfordshire. We have since added two more horses (Smirnoff and Polly Pocket) and the some of the horses are quite advanced in their training, for example, able to respond solely to voice commands for people who do not have use of their legs. During our research into equine assisted learning/therapy for children with additional needs we came across research showing the benefits of equine therapy with military veterans and active service personnel with visible and invisible injuries and realised provision of this in the UK was very poor. Around the same time I was having conversations with the Commanding officer of the Household Calvary and he put me in touch with the Equicenter (one of the largest equine therapy centres in the USA). We are now working closely with the Director and staff of the Equicenter both to train our staff and to develop our programmes. We have also decided to add a programme for current and surviving cancer patients.

Dean and Polly of Ranger's Riding Ranch
How can potential service users/clients access you?

At present either through our website or our social media profiles.

How can the equestrian community support organisations such as Rangers Riding Ranch?

By increasing awareness both of individual organisations and of the benefits of equine assisted learning and therapy; through direct financial sponsorship and/or donations of gifts in kind e.g. feed.

Which events have you got coming up to help fundraise that people can get involved with?

We have a fundraising event at Newbury Racecourse’s Party in the Paddock on 13th August 2022. As well as events on the day we will run an online auction at (more items will be added as we get closer to August but there are some pretty special lots their already).

We will also being having a Remembrance Day fundraiser on 13th November 2022. which will have a focus on veterans and serving personnel mental health (again events on the day and an online auction)

What are your hopes for the future of Rangers Riding Ranch?

In the short-term to find a permanent home for the project and fully open to service users/clients and in the longer term develop our services based on feedback we receive.

Katy Wright interviewed Isobel Mannings of Stable Routes CIC, based in Bradford:

Tell me about Stable Routes - What was your inspiration behind it and how did you about setting it up?

I have been lucky enough to have grown up around horses. I spent my childhood helping out at my local riding centre and eventually was lucky enough to have a pony of my own. I knew I wanted to work with horses but I wasn’t sure how.

I went onto study Psychology at university. I have always had a passion for working with people with additional needs, I volunteered at a local SEN school, and also for the National Autistic Society. It was then I knew I wanted to merge my passion of horses and working with people with additional needs. I had seen the amazing impact animals and specifically horses had on children and adults who sometimes found school and the outside world a challenging place to be. I decided to pursue a career in SEN teaching to gain some valuable experience and skills. I taught in SEN schools for 5 years aswell as a brief stint in Dubai. And then the dreaded lockdown came. I thought this would be the perfect chance to set up Stable Routes as a Saturday/holiday time job, with the dream of eventually taking it full time. I could not believe how quickly we become booked up, and I was able to leave teaching and go full time after 10 months!

Photo Courtesy of Stable Routes CIC

How can potential service users/clients access it if they wish to do EAL?

Riding schools which provide EAL are popping up around the country now. If you are local to us, then the best thing you can do is send us an email, or give us a call and we can talk you through the process of securing a regular placement. We work with lots of schools in the Bradford area, providing interventions within school time. Children also are taken out of school to access us in the school day as we are an alternate provision and work towards Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) targets.

How can the equestrian community support organisations such as Stable Routes?

Referral and signposting: spread the word! A lot of potential learners who could really benefit from our services simply don’t know we are an option!

Accessibility and privilege: Financially supporting people who don’t have the funds to access sessions, by sponsoring, fundraising and general CSR. Sponsoring a session would provide an amazing experience to someone’s life, who may really need it.

What are your hopes for the future of Stable Routes?

-Expand our facilities, including an indoor arena so we are accessible in all weathers! We work with a lot of children who struggle in the elements due to sensory processing difficulties.

-Expand our team! Have the capacity to provide jobs, qualifications and volunteer opportunities to current and future learners who are looking for employment opportunities.

-To deliver regular funded sessions to learners, who would otherwise not be able to financially access Stable Routes.

Don't forget to follow Ranger's Riding Ranch and Stable Routes CIC on their social media for more information and updates.

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